History museum improvement funds requested

The Appropriations Committee heard testimony March 5 on a bill that would provide $7.1 million for improvements to the Nebraska History Museum.

LB519, introduced by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, would appropriate $3.55 million per year in fiscal years 2013-14 and 2014-15 to the Nebraska State Historical Society for capital improvements at the museum.

Krist said the Nebraska History Museum, which was built in 1967, hosts thousands of visitors each year. Three engineering studies have revealed life safety, electrical and plumbing code shortcomings as well as compliance issues with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), he said.

“The building stands in need of renovation,” Krist said.

Michael Smith, director and CEO of the Nebraska State Historical Society, testified in support of the bill.

The building was not originally a museum, Smith said, and lacks the electrical system needed to display exhibits properly. In addition, he said, the elevators and bathrooms do not meet ADA requirements.

Lincoln High history and government teacher J.P. Caruso also supported the bill, saying the museum provides invaluable experiential learning opportunities for Nebraska students and should be invested in.

Caruso noted a recent trip to the museum’s exhibit on the history of the Ku Klux Klan in Nebraska. Students were able to see the fabric of a Klan robe, he said, and posters inviting Lincolnites to a rally at the state fair grounds.

“The exhibit captivated my students,” he said.

No opposition testimony was offered and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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